More than 1,000 migrants leave Budapest train station on foot for Austria
More than 1,000 migrants stranded for days at Budapest`s main train station left the building on Friday, intent on walking to the Austrian border, according to an AFP journalist on the scene.
The huge crowd included people in wheelchairs and on crutches, as well as parents carrying children on their shoulders, all prepared to march 175 kilometres (110 miles) to the border.
Some flashed victory signs while others waved images of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who recently announced that Berlin was easing asylum restrictions for Syrians.
"We are very happy that something is happening at last. The next stop is Austria. The children are very tired, Hungary is very bad, we have to go somehow," 23-year-old Osama from Syria told AFP.
The migrants were part of an estimated 2,000 people stuck in makeshift refugee camps at Keleti station, after railway authorities had blocked them from boarding trains to Austria and Germany because they lacked EU visas.
Police watched the silent migrants walk through the Hungarian capital but did not intervene, the AFP correspondent said.
The march was causing traffic jams on the main route into the city from the western Buda area.
It came as Hungarian lawmakers debated tough new anti-immigration measures, including criminalising illegal border crossing and vandalism to the new anti-immigrant razor-wire fence erected along the border with Serbia.
Hungary has in recent months joined Italy and Greece as a "frontline" state in Europe`s migrant crisis, with 50,000 people trekking up the western Balkans and entering the country in August alone.
A record 3,300 migrants crossed into Hungary on Thursday, according to the latest figures from the UN refugee agency.
The right-wing government headed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban has responded to the influx by erecting a controversial razor-wire barrier along its 175-kilometre (110-mile) border with Serbia.
On Thursday, Orban defended his handling of the crisis, blaming Germany`s lifting of asylum rules for the thousands of migrants travelling through his nation.
"Nobody wants to stay in Hungary, neither in Slovakia, nor Poland, nor Estonia. All want to go to Germany. Our job is just to register them," he said while in Brussels for talks on the crisis with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and EU president Donald Tusk.